Runners are “making strides” to fight breast cancer

ST. LOUIS, MO (KPLR) - The Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk stepped off in Forest Park Saturday with several younger women among the survivors.

The American Cancer Society is seeing more women with breast cancer before those women turn 40.

'There`s always a shock,' remembered 14-year survivor Dana Vedder. 'Like, `Why me`. Or, `Are you sure this really happened. Let`s go retest just to make sure. `'

Vedder`s mother passed away from the disease.

'Because of her, I had been going to get mammograms each year. So, at the age of 34 it was diagnosed. A lot of doctors have stated that my mother saved my life.'

Becky Schutz was 35 when she found her stage-four cancer in January 2016.

'I`m a nurse. So, I knew what was feeling was abnormal. And, I knew in my gut what it was.'

Jodi Browell is a 5-year survivor and found out during a prenatal visit.

'They did the ultrasound. You could see the flicker of the heartbeat. And, they did my yearly exam a little bit early. They found a lump.'

She was 33.

The women wore pink and hugged friends and family who joined the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk to fund programs for the American Cancer Society. Support and information was in abundance for every woman and man fighting the disease. But, one weapon missing in the arsenal of some survivors was health insurance.

'It`s quite frankly scary,' Schutz said. 'That there are women out there who don`t have the treatment I have available to me because they don`t have insurance.'

Stacy Reliford is the Missouri Government Relations liaison for the ACS. She said there is program that is largely unknown, but ready to help: Show Me Healthy Women.

'A lot of women out there are wondering how they can afford a mammogram, if they don`t have insurance, to seek this program out,' she said. 'They can get screened and if you are diagnosed, the treatment is covered. So, you don`t have to let cost be a barrier to being well.'

The program is funded by federal and state government grants as well as private donations.

Barbara Bartelsmeyer raised over $10,000 from her family and friends for many of the other services offered by the ACS like transportation, emotional support and even patient housing.

'For those who are out of the immediate area,' Bartelsmeyer explained. 'The Hope Lodge provides free services, free housing for themselves and one.'

So on this day, no one had to be scared. They had each other. They had information. They had one mission.

'One foot in front of the other,' Schutz said.

Saturday's walk raised $325,000 with 7,000 walkers.